2013-14 NHL Rookie Stock Watch: October 31 Edition
The early NHL season has seen some tremendous performances by rookies.
Sean Monahan has played well enough to convince the Calgary Flames that he deserves to stay in the NHL rather than to be sent to junior. Tomas Hertl scored four goals against the New York Rangers and is on a point-per-game pace in San Jose. Undrafted ex-ECHL forward Mark Arcobello has already posted double-digit point totals for the Oilers.
Many of these performances were considered in our first edition of Rookie Stock Watch. Today, we'll look at a different set of 15 rookies—including some our readers felt were overlooked last time—and evaluate their early-season performance.
Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks
Key Indicator: .944 save percentage through three games
Analysis: Andersen is an interesting pickle in Anaheim.
The 24-year-old Dane has an exceptional résumé. Naturally, he was dominant in Denmark, but in 2011-12, he posted a .943 save percentage in the Swedish Hockey League (one of the world's best) and last year posted a .929 save percentage for Anaheim's AHL affiliate in Norfolk.
The trouble is the competition. Ahead of Andersen right now are Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, a reasonably strong NHL duo. Behind him is the highly touted John Gibson, seen as the goalie of the future for the Ducks. Andersen has a narrow window to show what he can do; so far he has taken advantage of it.
Sven Baertschi, Calgary Flames
Key Indicator: Five points in 11 games.
Analysis: Baertschi has at times run afoul of head coach Bob Hartley, sitting as a healthy scratch in a recent game against Dallas. Hartley made it clear to the Calgary Herald's George Johnson the decision was performance-related:
The situation with Sven Baertschi is no different than McGrattan or Jackman or whoever on this team. Everyone goes by the same rules, goes by the same expectations. There’s only one way to be in the lineup and that is to perform.
In the early going, Baertschi is in much the same situation as last year: He's capable of providing offence, but he's still raw.
Michael Bournival, Montreal Canadiens
Key Indicator: Seven points in 10 games.
Analysis: Bournival has played all over Montreal's lineup, starting at the bottom end and climbing the depth chart from there. The consistent thread has been his strong performance throughout.
Bournival was a third-round draft pick in 2010, and after lighting up the QMJHL, he had a reasonably difficult adjustment to the professional game, putting up just 30 points in 69 games for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs. Undersized at 5'11", 196 pounds, he wasn't really seen as a prospect of real note.
But he's changing that with his performance so far this season.
Matt Donovan, New York Islanders
Key Indicator: 16:36 ice time per game.
Analysis: Donovan, the first player (to use the words of The Oklahoman reporter Michael Baldwin) "born, raised and trained in Oklahoma" to play in the NHL, offers the Islanders something they needed after the departure of Mark Streit: offence from the blue line.
The 23-year-old has a solid track record of scoring at every level and has consistently put up 40-plus points per season in his time in the AHL. He has had some trouble earning ice time in New York, but his upside in that area is undeniable.
Mathew Dumba, Minnesota Wild
Key Indicator: 44.8 percent offensive-zone starts/25.4 percent defensive-zone starts.
Analysis: Dumba struggled in his most recent game for the Wild, the last he could play before burning the first year of his entry-level contract. He's also carefully been used in a primarily offensive role for Minnesota and carefully spotted in five-on-five situations (he's averaging less than 11 minutes per game at even strength).
Given his struggles in a limited role, there's a pretty compelling case to give him more time to develop outside the NHL.
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators
Key Indicator: 20:14 ice time per game.
Analysis: As Josh Cooper of The Tennessean writes, Ekholm has made a dramatic impression on Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz this season. Trotz, who at times has been highly critical of Ekholm, praised his defensive play:
Defensively he has been really good. I didn’t know what he could do in terms of the penalty killing-wise, how much of an effect he could have, but he has been really, really good there. Some of the things I didn’t expect, he surprised me.
Ekholm's been trusted to play major minutes this season on an inexperienced Nashville blue line.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Buffalo Sabres
Key Indicator: 11:21 ice time per game.
Analysis: Mikhail Grigorenko has but one point and a minus-three rating in 12 games for the Buffalo Sabres. That isn't good, but more damning is his role on the team. Buffalo is, almost without question, the worst club in the NHL this season, and despite that, Grigorenko has been consigned to depth minutes and occasional spells in the press box.
And that's a terrible sign for 2012's 12th overall pick.
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Indicator: Two points in nine games.
Analysis: Jenner, a big, physical centre who scored at nearly a goal-per-game pace in the OHL last year, was one of the most interesting entries in this year's rookie class, particularly since it looked like he was going to get a chance on the wing of a scoring line alongside Brandon Dubinsky.
The early returns have been underwhelming. Jenner hasn't scored, and regular linemate Brandon Dubinsky posts better on-ice numbers when separated from Jenner, as per HockeyAnalysis.com. Now Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports that Jenner will miss some time with a leg injury.
Stock: Falling slightly.
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Key Indicator: Six points in 12 games.
Analysis: It is hard to think that the presence of Tyler Johnson in the Lightning's system had nothing to do with the team's willingness to move Cory Conacher in a deal with Ottawa last season. Johnson has impeccable minor league scoring credentials and fits the same mold as Conacher, that of undersized offensive forward.
He's found success early on a line with Teddy Purcell and Ondrej Palat in Tampa Bay and looks like a credible secondary scorer on one of the league's surprise teams.
Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Key Indicator: Three power-play goals in 11 games.
Analysis: The NHL's leader in points among rookie defencemen, Krug has found success early on the Boston Bruins' power play, scoring three times and adding an assist with the man advantage. The undersized blueliner put up 45 points in 63 games with the Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence last season, so there's every reason to expect him to be have an impact offensively.
The undersized Krug has been eased into other areas of the game, seeing third-pairing minutes at even strength and only spot duty on the penalty kill.
Hampus Lindholm, Anaheim Ducks
Key Indicator: 19:27 ice time per game.
Analysis: Lindholm is having a surprising impact on the Anaheim Ducks' blue line at the age of just 19, playing big minutes for a contending club. Veteran teammate Francois Beauchemin praised the rookie's maturity to NHL.com's Curtis Zupke:
[H]e's been great. He reads the play well so sometimes he doesn't need me to say something. He's just going to do it. His skating ability, his puckhandling and his patience is really good. He's going to get better as the season goes on.
While Lindholm has been put in a position to succeed (notably starting many shifts in the offensive zone), so far he's been awfully impressive.
Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
Key Indicator: 14:42 ice time per game.
Analysis: It's rare for a 19-year-old defenceman to be able to crack an NHL roster—rarer still for that player to be able to make a contending team better.
That's what Olli Maatta has done in Pittsburgh, and that's why the Penguins have elected to keep him past his nine-game trial, as head coach Dan Bylsma told the Associated Press: "I think he's played nine games in a row because he's earned the right to play nine games in a row because he's given us the best chance to win hockey games and that's going to happen in the 10th game too."
As the ice time shows, Maatta's being eased into duty slowly.
Patrick Maroon, Anaheim Ducks
Key Indicator: Four points in nine games.
Analysis: Patrick Maroon's NHL opportunity has been a long time coming. The 6'3", 230-pound winger spent five long seasons in the minor leagues and had decent scoring numbers all down the line. This year, he finally stuck with an NHL team out of camp, and the results have been good. Not only has he picked up four points in nine games, but he's also added a physical element with three fighting majors.
Matthew Nieto, San Jose Sharks
Key Indicator: Five points in 11 games.
Analysis: San Jose always seems to have these guys in the pipeline. Nieto spent the last three seasons playing college hockey and hasn't missed a beat during his transition to the professional game. His statistics in all areas are solid, and while fellow rookie Tomas Hertl has captured most of the attention, Nieto gives the Sharks yet another offensive option.
Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
Key Indicator: Four points in 13 games.
Analysis: Vatanen is a 5'10" offensive dynamo, a defender that has consistently put up phenomenal offensive numbers in Finland and the minor leagues. The points have been a little slower to come by this year, thanks in large part to Anaheim's struggles on the power play (caused, in turn, by a terrible 4.4 shooting percentage during five-on-four play that should improve dramatically as the season continues).
At this point in his career, he's a third-pairing even-strength defenceman and a power-play specialist.
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